KORNBLUTS MEAT! Clinton is the other white meat, smarmy Anne Kornblut now says: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2007
ALL RIGHT, WE WERE WRONG: Before we offer serial apologies, lets examine a letter in this mornings Post. This letter—about the past two White House campaigns—defines an ongoing problem:
LETTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (8/16/07): In his Aug. 14 op-ed, a love letter to Karl Rove, Grover G. Norquist whitewashed the "dirty tricks" Mr. Rove used in the 2000 Republican primary campaign and the 2004 presidential campaign to get his candidate elected.From a certain liberal perspective, that letter is technically accurate—though we wouldnt make its claims ourselves. (For example, were Rove and Bush involved in the South Carolina sliming of McCain? Some journos said this, and we dont doubt it—but no one has ever shown it.) But what is most striking about that letter? To appearances, ML believes that two candidates had their character assassinated in the past two White House campaigns—and neither one of the two is Al Gore! This illustrates the way we liberals and Dems have failed to help voters understand the current facts of political life.
That in mind, lets get ourselves started on a long chain of apologies.
First, an e-mailer suggested that Tuesdays post was unfair to Digby. Lets be clear: We thought the Digsters focus was slightly skewed in her recent post about Chris Matthews and Erin Burnett. But we didnt mean to suggest that Digby has failed to address Matthews long chain of gender-based insults against Hillary Clinton. In our view, the liberal web was quite permissive when Matthews was directing these insults and jibes at Clinton. (He has toned it down in recent months.) But we didnt have Digby in mind when we said that, and we wouldnt you to think that we did.
Even more stupid was yesterdays post about surprise, one-day HOWLER bete noir Matt Yglesias. An e-mailer suggested that we had misread his meaning and for all we know, that may be the case. As a general matter, there has been a serious problem with career liberal writers who refuse to deal with the problem Matt identified—with the pernicious effects of the stupid pseudo-issues which Matt said are now deciding our elections. But it was especially stupid to put this on Matt, although the text of his post was somewhat unfortunate. Its easier to assess the motives of groups rather than the motives of specific individuals. We havent studied Matts work in this area, and, of course, we have no idea what is happening in his fruitful brain.
One brief word of self-defense, which takes us back to that letter.
If we dont want to see such intemperate posts, we have to stop talking about spending our time in ways we find appealing when our analysts are around. Poor analysts! Theyve spent more than nine years on earth tones and haircuts—on the most inane pseudo-issues the human mind knows how to create. And no—they havent spent their time on these topics because they find them interesting or appealing. Omigod! Each night last week, the youngsters snuck off for an hour to a Barnes and Noble; with the AC cranked, they worked with David Bodanis Einstein-made-easy book, a tome they revisit every few years. In some ways, its the clearest of the Einstein-made-easies—but then again, thats not saying much. Were fascinated by the fact that these writers cant explain this science—and were even more fascinated by the fact that they dont seem to know it. Of course, reviewers are always ready to type reviews which say things like this (by Parade, from Bodanis web site):
Even people who approach physics and mathematics with trepidation will be fascinated and enlightened by this dazzling book....This is a clearly written, astonishingly understandable book that celebrates human achievement.Astonishingly understandable! Completing the hat trick, were slightly intrigued by the endless reviewers who may even believe such a thing.
At least Bodanis is trying to explain historys most advanced and challenging science. By contrast, our political reporters are trying to explain why John Kerry got Swiss on his cheese-steak and why Al Gore wore those three-button suits. Their sheer stupidity is stunning too; it may be as startling as Einsteins genius. But uh-oh! Our analysts began to bounce off walls when they read Matts words about spending his time in ways he finds appealing. We cant blame them (or Matt, God knows); for nine years, theyve returned to the drudgery of John Edwards haircuts because, to quote Matts accurate words, the issues (or, more likely, pseudo-issues) that are most important in deciding elections tend to be the issues that are least important in substantive terms.
That statement by Matt was right on the mark. Ditto Atrios, seeming to say (on Monday) that the press corps misconduct in Campaign 2000 ended up dooming us to Iraq. But then we look to letter-writer ML—and he doesnt seem to have heard about this. Yes, the issues involved here are mindless. But omigod! These mindless issues decide our elections. And so many of us have failed to say this that writer ML hasnt heard.
Final note: The human mind longs for conventional wisdom. ML expresses the standard journalistic view of the past seven years—McCain and maybe Kerry got slimed. It easier, by far, to keep saying this. Its easier—and it leads to new wars. Do you really want to take your chance with a President Giuliani?
KORNBLUTS MEAT: Weve been puzzling about it all week. How to deal with Anne Kornbluts strange Outlook piece—with this odd report from Sundays Post, which attempts to imagine what Campaign 08 will be about? Weve been asking ourselves a question all week: Is this piece really as incoherent—as intellectually immature—as we thought the first time we read it? And then, theres that groaning opening paragraph, to which Atrios—link above—has already briskly replied.
We finally decided to wait till Friday, when wed tackle her report all at once. But today, the nasty Post scribe offers this grim report. We thought that wed better get started.
Kornblut reports from darkest Iowa, where she observes Giuliani and Clinton as they visit the Hawkeye state fair. As often happens when this scribe reports, the incoherence seems to be everywhere. Clinton was mobbed for the entire visit, she says, fairly late in her piece. But earlier on, the puzzling scribe has offered this assertion:
KORNBLUT (8/16/07): Giuliani came with less of an entourage [than Clinton] but attracted slightly more attention from passersby.Were always amazed when scribes can tell us who got slightly more attention. But can anyone parse the logic here? If Clinton was mobbed for the entire visit, how did Giuliani get more attention? Its hard to guess, but puzzles like this drive a good deal of Kornbluts output. Lets look at her fuller passage for another example:
KORNBLUT: Several hours later, Giuliani came with less of an entourage but attracted slightly more attention from passersby. Unlike Clinton, who gave her set stump speech and did not invite questions, the former mayor actively sought to engage, talking to a gathered crowd for only a few minutes before soliciting questions and stopping to talk at length with any reporter who asked.Unlike Clinton, Giuliani actively sought to engage. This passage extends the invidious comparisons which drive a fair amount of this piece—Rudy tried to engage, Hill didnt. Funny, though—a few grafs later, Kornblut is telling us this:
KORNBLUT: Clinton steered further from substance, her goal, even more than Giuliani, to show her human side. Women in particular flocked to meet her. Jeanne Rutz, 80, said she was proud to stand in the sweltering heat to meet the woman who would become the first female president. "Is there anyone else?" she asked.First were told that Clinton didnt seek to engage. Later, though, were told that people flocked to meet her, that she was mobbed for the entire visit, and that Vilsack spent much of her time introducing Clinton to voters. Meanwhile: Clinton steered further from substance, her goal, even more than Giuliani, to show her human side? Is that sentence written in English? We frequently asked ourselves such questions when we read Sundays Outlook piece. And yet, this is the way our White House campaigns get reported at the top of our press corps. This represents the very best work our mainstream press corps can do!
(By the way: Clintons husband never campaigned in Iowa? It makes a nice hiss-spitting addition to this strange, hiss-spitting report. But the statement, as written, is simply false; dont make us explain the particulars, which are tired, dull and pointless. This statement appears for one reason only—to drive the image Kornblut wanted, in which Clinton is an uncaring outsider, much less a mensch than Giuliani, a man who Clinton happens to lead in almost all nationwide polls.)
In short, Kornbluts report is poorly reasoned, in a way that is becoming her trademark (more tomorrow). And her report is built around the snide, know-it-all attitude which drives so much of this cohorts work. In Kornbluts silly, childish construct, Giuliani and Clinton are both city slickers, members of a coastal elite. At the fair, theyre trying to make voters think that theyre actually normal people. In this report, there is no evidence that any Iowan thinks these things about either candidate. But so what? The slickers share an uphill battle—a battle the scribe can imagine:
KORNBLUT: Stylistically, though, Giuliani and Clinton share an uphill battle—namely in convincing voters that they are normal people, rather than visiting members of the coastal elite with occasionally gruff manners and sharp partisan elbows. So during her midday visit, Clinton flipped pork patties. She stopped at a food stand and ordered ice cream on a stick, dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts.No doubt, Clinton was trying to avoid engaging when she stood there flipping those patties. But Kornblut builds this novelized piece around a familiar press corps construct. These foppish pols arent normal people. Well tell you which ones really are.
So which one is the normal person? To Kornbluts eye, its clearly Rudy who is more normal, as one can discern from reading this piece. This brings us to the part of this report which ought to alarm every Democrat.
Omigod! Theyre back from the grave! The souls of Ceci Connolly and Katherine Kit Seelye are lurking about in Kornbluts piece. In 1999 and 2000, these auteurs told us, again and again, that Candidate Gore just wasnt quite human. Reinventing facts, reinventing quotes, this pair of children kept typing their tales—novels which sent George Bush to the White House. And this morning, Kornblut seems to be sampling their work. Gore wasnt quite human during Campaign 2K. And Clinton isnt quite human now:
CONNOLLY (6/23/99): [T]he man best known for his statue imitation finally appeared to relax in public.Giggling like a girl, Gore showed his human side—and Clinton shows her human side now! Later, Kornblut marvels at Clintons near-spontaneity—another favorite theme of Gores mocking coverage—and she delivers the kind of hiss-spitting comment that is going to drive this campaigns coverage unless Democrats get off their keisters and find a way to make Kornblut stop:
KORNBLUT: Yet Clinton was mobbed for the entire visit, in contrast to the muted reception given another Democratic candidate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), who was also at the fair. For Clinton, there were even some moments of near-spontaneity.There were even some moments of near-spontaneity, Kornblut meowed. And then, amazing! Clinton becomes The Other White Meat in this hiss-spitting piece of near-porn.
Hillary Clinton—The Other White Meat! Why, Rush is laughing about it already! And lets face it—anyone who has followed the work of this mainstream press corps will know the pleasure this passage brings—with its evocation of the juvenile gender-jibes people like Kornblut so love. And readers, Kornblut had to work fairly hard to give you the pleasure of that luscious jibe. The hard-copy Post includes a large photo which shows what it actually said on that apron. At the top, the apron said this—and Kornblut knew she must edit:
Hillary Rodham ClintonOops! In no way would a smarmy hustler like Kornblut type an upbeat phrase like that! (It would make Clinton sound like a human!) Below that, on an oval blue background, we see those treasured words: The Other White Meat. Underneath that, even more ignored text: Dont be blah. In the photo, former governor Tom Vilsack stands next to Clinton—and his apron says the same thing (minus the name). Hes the other white meat too. Ditto for another man, on Clintons other side.
The childish, empty boy Chris Matthews was having this kind of gender-based fun in the early months of this race. (Clintons supporters giggle like girls, he memorably said at one point. Just like Gore!) And the nasty, stupid gender jibes will be typed by the Kornbluts for the next fifteen months—unless Dems make her stop. They did this to Gore throughout Campaign 2K—and these brain-dead, broken-souled losers are ready to do it again.
Hillary Clinton—The Other White Meat! Kornbluts prose is often incoherent—more on this problem tomorrow—but this sweet comment rang out loud and clear. (Rush is laughing.) And Kornbluts snide jibes will drive this campaign as long as we permit it. In the general election, shell think its her job to snidely tell us which of the hopefuls is actually human. If recent history serves as a guide, we know which one will be which.
TOMORROW: Good grief! If ninth-graders handed you prose like this, youd figure you faced a long year.
FOR THE RECORD: Again, heres what the t-shirt actually said. And heres what Kornblut recorded:
WHAT THE T-SHIRT ACTUALLY SAID:She knew which part would be smarmy.
WATCHING THEM REASON: Its hard to believe, but the Washington Posts political scribes are currently doing dumber work than their counterparts at the Times. Yesterday, we reviewed Balz and Baker; this morning, its political newcomer Alec MacGillis. Where do they go to find the people who reason as poorly as this?
MACGILLIS (8/16/07): This week Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) offered what many believe is his strongest argument for his candidacy against that of Hillary Clinton: that he is a less polarizing figure on the national scene.Huh! According to MacGillis, independents and Republicans seem to recognize that Obama has the potential to appeal to voters outside the Democratic base. But how did he reach that judgment?
First, lets note what is painfully obvious: All the Democratic candidates have the potential to appeal to voters outside the Democratic base. MacGillis statement is so vague that its utterly meaningless. But for the record, heres the evidence from which MacGillis drew his fuzzy conclusion:
MACGILLIS (continuing directly): Asked which Democratic candidate would have the "best chance to defeat the Republican nominee in the general election," 54 percent of Democrats polled said Clinton, compared with 22 percent who said Obama.Do you follow that? In this poll, independents and Republicans said that Clinton has a better chance to be elected than Obama. Somehow, this tells MacGillis that independents and Republicans seem to recognize that Obama has the potential to appeal to voters outside the Democratic base. And this is the way the reasoning works at the upper end of our press corps!
We dont mean this as a comment on Clinton and Obama; for ourselves, we dont have the slightest idea who would do better in a general election. (Neither do those voters, of course.) We mean this as a comment on MacGillis; this is pitiful reasoning. But reasoning like this has been driving the Post, and it will likely continue.
Most of us are accustomed to thinking of political reporting in terms of its bias. Less commonly recognized: One of this press corps defining traits is its remarkably hapless reasoning. Yesterday, Baker said Clinton is just like Rove because she likes to stay on message. Today, non-Democrats say Clinton will more likely win—and it means something good about Obama.
Tomorrow, well visit Kornblut in Outlook as she bumbles along, often semi-coherently. Its amazing to think that work like this defines the top of our press corps.